The BMW i8 hybrid sports car has been caught in close-to-production form by CarAdvice's European spies.
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BMW's new two-seater coupe has previously been seen testing in the same guise as the Vision EfficientDynamics concept on which the i8 is based.

The sleek silhouette of the concept is retained, though the expansive glass doors inevitably make way for more conventional-looking openings.

The quirky bodywork clearly evident despite BMW’s traditional swirly-patterned camouflage reveals the clever aerodynamics that will aid both downforce and efficiency.

BMW is referring to the rear bodywork, where there’s a noticeable gap between the tailgate and rear bumper, as an ‘air curtain’. The rear tyres are also accommodated in a wheel housing dramatically separated from the main body.

At the front, there’s a layering effect of different overlapping panels that helps air flow over the front wheels and is a feature BMW has told CarAdvice that will “permeate the rest of the BMW range” in future.

The overlapping layer effect will also be replicated inside the cabin as a kind of “design motif”.

The BMW i8, which is constructed predominantly from carbonfibre and is expected to cost about $300,000 in Australia, will also be the first BMW to feature the company’s new laser headlight technology.

The production version also features a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo engine, but switches from the concept’s diesel fuel to petrol. The engine , with about 160kW, powers the rear wheels in conjunction with an electric motor, while the front wheels are given momentum by a front-mounted electric motor with nearly 100kW.

BMW insiders have told CarAdvice the i8 is likely to have a 0-100km/h acceleration time of 4.7 seconds – a time it feels is quick enough without treading on the toes of its highly important M models, such as the M5 (4.3sec) and M3 (4.6sec).

The i8 will go on sale in Europe in 2013 but may not reach Australia until 2014. It is expected to be preceded by the i3 city car.

BMW's new i range will expand beyond the i8 and i3 (pictured bottom in concept forms), with i1, i5 and i7 models anticipated.